Friday, May 30, 2008

About agape

Just a few thought on Agape this week. Some one said that "... the beauty of agape is that it takes something that ordinarily would be worth nothing and makes it priceless. It creates value in the object of its affection and attention."

I thought this was a deep statement. Why? because, it explains why God is capable of loving us. For you see it says in Romans 5:6-10:
Verse 6 says, “When we were still without strength ... Christ died for the ungodly.”
Verse 8 says, “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” and finally,
verse 10 says, “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son ...”

God can do this because, "Agape is selfless, self-emptying, self-sacrificing, self-renouncing, a love that 'seeks not her own' " (1 Corinthians 13). Besides, God is agape.

“went about doing good” including the ultimate good, which was His death on the cross for all mankind. As He hung on the cross His heart toward His enemies cried out, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do.”BUt, here is the challenge, Christ said that we should agape our enemies. Matthew 5:44. 45 says, “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be the sons of your Father in heaven ...” This is what He did, even when we was spitefully persecuted He So He asks us to do the same. This means that we should, love those who hate you or can care the less about you. It means that even of when they are against you, you are not against them. It means you have their best interest in mind, even when they do not have your best interest in mind, and even if it means harm toward you (Including death). How are we suppose to do this? By letting the Holy Spirit dwell in us by faith, and let Him do His will in us. This is the only method that works.

Friday, May 16, 2008

He did His Father’s will

Here in the United States of America we are in the midst of the campaign season for the presidential election. Regretfully, as most campaign runs, they are very negative. The opponent finds negative things from the past to smear the reputation of the other one. Such was the recent case of one such presidential nominee Senator Barack Obama. His former pastor in Chicago was caught on video saying things that were negative about the USA. Most people have gone back and forth about whether Reverend Wright is patriotic or not. And, how does it implicate Senator Obama, since he was a member of that Church? Does he agree with the views expressed by Reverend Wright? Can we elect a president that thinks that way?

However, I have not heard anyone asking perhaps the most important question. Was Reverend Wright in his right to express views that are perhaps personal and not necessarily the views of God? As a pastor he, and all pastors, represents God. Thus, pastors, and all preachers for that matter, must restrain themselves to speak the Word of God, only. Reverend Wright may have said the truth, but unless it was from God, he, as Christ’s minister, was wrong in saying what he said. If it was God’s will, then it would have behooved Reverend Wright to say it. If it was God’s will – which I am not saying it was – the reverend was following example of Jesus. You see, Jesus did as the Father told Him to do. As He said on a couple of occasions,

John 5:30 I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.
John 6:38 For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.

He listened to His Father and acted on every Word the Father said to Him. This means that when Jesus sent the demons to the swine, He was doing His Father’s will (Matthew 8: 31, 32). This was no whim or last minute resort decision. The Father had a purpose in letting Jesus do this. Ellen G. White says that "it was in mercy to the owners of the swine that this loss had been permitted to come upon them. They were absorbed in earthly things, and cared not for the great interests of spiritual life. Jesus desired to break the spell of selfish indifference, that they might accept His grace." (The Desire of Ages, p. 338).

When Christ cursed the fig tree, he was doing the Father’s will (Matthew 21:18-19). Again there was a purpose behind this. There was a lesson to be taught. Nothing was done trivially or capriciously. God does not work that way. This event was a living parable. Jesus showed the disciples the danger of professing to believe and not having the fruits of your profession.

You may not be a preacher, teacher, etc. You may ask yourselves, does this apply to me? Is Christ our example? Are we not His followers? We’ve established that He did only as the Father willed for Him. This should be true for us also. Id we are to walk as He walked, and be perfect as He was, then we are to yield our own prerogative, to the Holy Spirit. We are to let Him take over our minds, as He did the mind of Christ. Only then will we do as Jesus did. Only then we will do our Heavenly Father’s will.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Faith versus Money

Faith versus money

The word was out. A particular prison was highly successful in bringing inmates to Christ. An investigation was made, to find which prison ministry was responsible. After months of inquiry, they found out the prison ministry itself was wondering what was happening. At the end of the investigation they discovered that it was the warden who was responsible for turning the prisoners around. The warden was a man who feared God. He shared the gospel with his inmates and even prayed for them and with them.

Immediately, a Christian radio station arranged for an interview. The man shared his testimony giving Christ the glory for his success in turning these men around. When asked about a budget and planning. The warden almost exploded, “What are you talking about? Budget? Planning? Do you realize that budget is the biggest excuse people give to not do the work God is convicting them of. Budgets are also the excuse to do work we have no business doing. We do not have a budget. We have the word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.” Speechless, the interviewer sheepishly went to a break.

What does God’s work need to go forward: money or the Holy Spirit? In today’s world all things require money. Even, church activities and programs run because there is money; hence, the need to always ask for money in our services. The dependence on money has replaced our dependence on the Holy Spirit. Time spent praying is now spent developing ways to acquire funds and planning activities and programs. Faith is replaced with either doubt or presumption.

There is no wonder the author of the lesson asks the questions, “How should we understand this saying? (Sell what you have and give it to the poor Luke 18:22,.) Was Jesus advocating a redistribution of wealth for all Christians in all times and places? What practical problems would arise if we literally carried out His injunction? Take any given community, in which all Christians have sold all their property and given the proceeds to the poor, what now is the economic status of those Christians? How do they support themselves and their own families? And how do they now get the means to carry forward the rest of Jesus' mission-to take the Gospel to new frontiers, for example?.”

The answer to that clearly is that if we live by faith as those in apostolic times did, we would not worry about money. As Christ told the disciples in Matthew 6:31-34,

Matthew 6: 31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
Matthew 6: 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
Matthew 6: 33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Matthew 6: 34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

In their case God provided through others. They learned to live by faith. God spoke; they listened and believed His promises. They trusted that God would provide. They lived by the definition of faith that says, “Faith is the expecting the word of God to do what it says and the depending upon that word to do what it says.”

On some occasions living by faith meant for the brother or sister to work for money. Notice Paul, Aquila and Priscilla. They were tent makers (Acts 18:3). Paul was very candid about why he worked. He did not want to burden the brethren. Selling what you have and giving it to others does not preclude working. If indeed, it is what God wants you to do. In other words, a business or job may require as much faith as not working and depending financially from others. Working or running a business may expose you to others who need to hear the gospel.

David concluded in Psalms 20 that “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” (Psalm 20:7 NIV). Zechariah reached a similar conclusion,
“So he said to me, "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: 'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty” (Zechariah 4:6). Many trust in things this they have or have acquired. But, those who truly love God will trust Him.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Compassion Of God

The author of the week in review of our lesson suggests that one of the objectives should be to “sense a desire to experience the compassion of God on a daily basis.” At first sight this sounds as a lofty objective. However, if we pay closer attention it is deeper than what it seems. It begs to question: What is the compassion of God? Does God desire to sense or experience compassion or does it just happen? How does God sense or experience compassion? How can we experience it?

In the dictionary, the word compassion means: a. sympathetic feeling, b. mercy, c. pity, and d. an expression of sorrow for another’s loss, grief or misfortune. The word used in the Bible is splagchna, which indicates no ordinary pity but the deepest emotion one is capable of, an emotion that arises from the very depths of one’s being. It refers to "the inward parts," "the bowels," considered the seat of the emotions in the ancient world. Compassion goes beyond sympathy (which merely can be intellectual). Compassion comes from the inside, from the heart and even the very gut. It suggests an ‘intensive’ involvement with the other, like the love the father showed to the prodigal son (Luke 15:20) and the compassion exhibited by the Good Samaritan and what those who left the victim lying in the ground refused to feel (Luke 10:33). Both parables use the word splagchna, which is the compassion of God.

How does God experience it? Probably, the same way Christ did. Christ probably experienced in His body a revolt or wrench in His gut or stomach. He experienced something strong and intense. It was something He could not ignore. It moved Him to respond toward what He saw. Sometimes the response was just prayer, other times it was speaking words of comfort, and other times it was healing those for whom He felt splagchna.

In the New Gospels, Christ is quoted feeling splagchna at least four times. In Matthew 9: 35,36 It says that Jesus felt compassion for the people “because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.” In Mark 1:40, 41 it said that moved with compassion He touched a leper to heal him. In Matthew 20:29-34 it says that Jesus, moved with compassion, touched the eyes of the blind men to heal them. In Luke 7: 11-15 Jesus again moved with compassion touched the bier -the frame on which dead bodies were conveyed to the grave – to resurrect the child to his mother.

Can we sense a desire for something that God experiences? Again another question is the answer. Does God desire to feel compassion? The probable answer is no. If splagchna is God’s compassion then it is born out of agape. One can only desire what one does not have. God is agape. This would mean that God feels compassion automatically. He has no need to desire it.

Can we sense or feel splagchna? Not unless God gives it to us. You can try all you want to sense it; if it is not there you will not sense it. The verb to sense has several meanings. According to the dictionary it can mean: the faculty of perceiving by means of sense organs; to perceive by the senses; a bodily function or mechanism (a sight, hearing, or smell) involving the action and effect of a stimulus on a sense organ; to be or become aware of; and / or to detect. What ever you are sensing is either in your body, pressing against it (If it is touch or taste), or is within your range of detection (if it is seeing, smelling, or hearing). When one feels splagchna it presses against your body, as any biological need. It requires attention and response. It can only be released by submitting to what the Holy Spirit would have you do in the moment.

Then what should you do? You should pray that God fills you with a desire to submit to His righteousness and let Him fill you with His agape. As the lesson says the single force that moved Jesus was agape – agape from the belly or gut. Splagchna, as a byproduct of this, will flow automatically. You will see others suffering and immediately you will feel in your body an intense feeling that will move you to respond in the person’s favor.